Funny women and befuddled men, sexy ’60s shows without all the poetry, more J.J. Abrams and the endless fall: The upcoming TV season’s biggest trends
Whether it's because great minds think alike, writers and executives take their cues from the same influential shows, or just old-fashioned marketing data, similar-seeming shows abound every fall — and so it goes with the upcoming season.
As the networks begin to unveil their slates in New York City Monday, we look at some of the biggest trends this season, what they mean, and how they came about — from empowered women to emasculated men to shows based on fairy tales.
The Endless Fall: So far, only Fox and NBC have unveiled their official schedule, and the fourth-place NBC seems to be taking a major lesson from "The Voice," this year's biggest hit. NBC has ordered 12 new shows in all, six comedies and six dramas. But rather than unleash them all at once, it is staggering its slate by releasing half the shows in the fall and half in midseason.
Debuting a big gun in the spring worked spectacularly for NBC when it debuted "The Voice" in April, during a relatively uncluttered TV landscape. The late entry will allow more time for anticipating and buzz to develop around shows like the high-concept "Awake" (left) and "The Firm," which may have a built-in audience of John Grisham fans.
The slate is the first for NBC entertainment president Bob Greenblatt since he came to the network from Showtime, and he seems to be taking a cue from the cable world: HBO, Showtime, and AMC have all built major buzz around shows like "Boardwalk Empire," "Dexter," and "Mad Men" by releasing them when there isn't as much compeition from networks. Greenblatt calls the staggered release strategy the "marathon approach."
Fox, meanwhile, is holding back the much-anticipated "Alcatraz" and the "Bones" spin-off "The Finder" for midseason.
Funny women: The most obvious trend of the upcoming season is the rise of women-centered comedies. Much as we'd like to attribute it to a breakdown in sexism or male insecurity, it's largely thanks to the power of marketing.
"As we know, it's easier to get women to watch television in general," Greenblatt told TheWrap. Comedians Whitney Cummings ("Whitney," right) and Chelsea Handler ("Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea") have a "one of the guys" appeal that works with men and women alike, Greenblatt said, and "Up All Night" star Christina Applegate carries a wealth of audience goodwill going back to her Kelly Bundy days.
Greenblatt expects men and women alike to watch all of their shows: "I think there will actually be more balanced than it appears to be at the outset."
Fox, meanwhile, will debut "I Hate My Teenage Daughter" in the fall. The show features Jaime Pressly as one of two mothers who fear their daughters are turning into the kinds of girls who tormented them when they were younger.
A mini-trend within the female-led comedy trend? Roommate misadventures. NBC's "Best Friends Forever" is about a sometimes demanding woman who moves in with her best friend — and the friend's significant other — after a divorce. Fox's "The New Girl" pairs Zooey Deschanel with the requisite hapless male roommates, and ABC's "Apartment 23" offers more female-centric roommate disasters.
CBS's "Two Broke Girls," meanwhile, stars Kat Denning and focuses on twenty-something female friends in New York. (One thought on saving some cash: How about a roommate?)
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Baffled men: Once again, television perfectly mirrors reality. While most women's problems involve the people with whom they split the cable bill, men spend most of their time impotently struggling to find their place in a world suddenly taken over by ladies.
Hence, three different ABC shows about men's struggling to find their place in a woman's world: Tim Allen's "Last Man Standing," "Man Up," and "Work It," in which two bosom buddies realize it's impossible to make it in the pharmaceutical industry without pretending to be women.
Sexy Throwbacks: The hardest part of the "Mad Men" formula to reproduce? The richly detailed writing and beautifully calibrated performances. The easiest? The sex. ABC's "Pan Am" and NBC's "The Playboy Club" (left) revel in the slinky, swanky aspects of the 1960s, eschewing "Mad Men"-type references to "Mediations on an Emergency" in favor of clothes people don't wear to work anymore.
ABC's 1970s revival "Charlie's Angels" also gives its characters plenty of reasons to only sort-of-get-dressed in the morning: Look, it's all part of the job. "Wonder Woman," sadly, won't get to run around in tights, since NBC passed on the show.
Looking for the Next "Lost": If Fox's mid-season "Alcatraz" can't recapture the magic, it's time to call off the search. The J.J. Abrams-produced show brings back fan favorite Jorge Garcia and once again puts him a storied island with an interesting relationship to the space-time continuum.
CBS' "Person of Interest," meanwhile, finds Garcia's partner in island maintenance, Michael Emerson, paired with Jim Caviezel in a series about a billionaire and CIA agent who fight crime together. Produced by Abrams and written by Jonathan Nolan ("The Dark Knight"), it would have to work very, very hard to be less than watchable.
ABC's "Once Upon a Time" turns to "Lost" producers Adam Horowitz and Adam Kitsis for the story of a bailbondswoman and her son who find that their lives are intersecting with fairy-tale characters –including a sword-wielding Snow White.
We're hesitant to group NBC's "Grimm" with the potential "Lost" successors since it has nothing in common with "Lost" except a fantastical concept — one similar to that of "Once Upon a Time." The detective drama is set in a world where the Brothers Grimm's characters are real.
ABC's "The River" meanwhile borrows, at least, the tropical setting of "Lost" — and the show's love of a good chill. The horror drama from the writer-director of "Paranormal Activity" follows a crew searching the Amazon for a missing adventurer.